The Liberal Betrayal of the Jews

The Lecture Series with Dr. Ruth Wisse

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The Meaning of Jewish Exceptionalism

Wednesday, November 18, 2020 | 7:30 PM ET

The ultimate judge of Jewish exceptionalism—and of the enduring value of Jewish civilization—is the Divine Source that inspired it. But for Jewish civilization to continue—and to flourish—every generation has to reinforce Jewish ideas and Jewish values in its own language, rituals, schools, and books. The imperative for Jewish cultural self-confidence is only more powerful when the Jewish people is denigrated by its adversaries and unjustly targeted for blame. Having come to play an outsized role in the international arena, Jews should embrace their exceptional role in human history and courageously accept what this requires of them. The actions of American Jews and Jewish Israelis matter beyond their borders. The world seems to get this, for better and for worse. So should the Jews themselves.


Can Liberals Confront Anti-Semitism

March 16, 2020

For centuries, Jews have put their faith in liberal ideas of progress, toleration, and secular democracy. But what if this liberal faith has failed? Ruth Wisse will diagnose the state of Jewish politics in the modern age.

The Dark Side of Holocaust Education

May 7, 2020

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and educational programs like “Facing History” were intended to act as a deterrent against anti-Jewish aggression: “Never Again.” Was this a realistic expectation? Was retelling the Nazi annihilation of one-third of the Jewish people expected to inspire confidence in the Jews or in Judaism? With anti-Semitism on the rise—and with Jewish identity and commitment among many Diaspora Jews in decline—we need to ask whether the emphasis on Holocaust education bears any responsibility. And with so much Holocaust education now focused on treating every form of national pride or particularism as the seed of hatred—all in the name of liberal pluralism—we need to ask: Has Holocaust education been turned against the Jews?

Past Lectures

Equality and Excellence: Can They Coexist?

October 14, 2020

When Asian students sued Harvard University over an admissions policy that discriminated against them, many compared this to the anti-Jewish quotas of the 1920s and 1930s. Not quite. Whereas the earlier bigotry against Jews (and others) was driven by prejudice against certain minorities, the present bias is the result of affirmative action that tries to benefit the allegedly disadvantaged. Whatever the intentions, the result is a new form of discrimination against high-achieving sub-cultures and a corresponding devaluing of human excellence as a civilizational standard and ideal. Jews are often treated as the new emblems of “white privilege,” and successful Jews often feel guilty about the very success in America that their own liberal children now take all too easily for granted.

About Ruth Wisse

Ruth Wisse recently retired from her position as Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University, and is currently the Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Tikvah Fund. Her books on literary subjects include an edition of Jacob Glatstein’s two-volume fictional memoir, The Glatstein ChroniclesThe Modern Jewish Canon: A Journey Through Literature and Culture, and A Little Love in Big Manhattan. She is also the author of two political studies, If I Am Not for Myself: The Liberal Betrayal of the Jews and Jews and Power. Her most recent book, No Joke: Making Jewish Humor, a volume in the Tikvah Fund’s Library of Jewish Ideas, was recently published by Princeton University Press.